MT at the climate camp

The Heathrow climate protest rumbles on. A group of 200 or so eco protestors are continuing their 24-hour 'siege' of BAA's car park, many of them dressed as clowns and playing tunes like insy-winsy spider on the penny whistle. It would have been just the thing to lift the spirits of the airport operator's staff on yet another miserable Monday morning, had BAA not told them to avoid that office today.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

MT's man at Heathrow got his own taste of the protest this weekend when he managed to penetrate the protestors' camp, before being ejected for being there outside of the designated 'media hour'. Not for MT the underhand methods of other 'scumbag' journalists, however: he had actually been welcomed under the string by one of the camp's 'legal supporters' - even though this contravened camp policy - on the basis of being 'a nice guy'. Clearly the media operation there has a way to go before it reaches the desired Fort Knox level of impenetrability.

So what was the camp like? Yes there were a lot of bad smells, poor puns like 'resistence is fertile', and feral children careening around on crudely-welded tricycles; but there was also an impressive amount of improvisation - solar-powered cinemas, a full media operation including on-site internet, and well-argued talks on why corporate carbon trading isn't exactly going to sort out the planet's climate issues. This latter wasn't a million miles away from what you might hear at the London Business School, just with a lot more ethnic headgear and sitting in hay.

The meeting to decide the main 'direct action' of the protest - yesterday's descent on BAA headquarters - was another eye-opener of alternative management methods. The camp has no designated leaders, which means running things by consensus, and necessarily entails large numbers of meetings. As anyone who's ever had anything to do with the local council will know, if this approach is going to have any chance of success it calls for ruthless chairing. Every diversion - such as how to canvass the local villagers - was brushed off with a 'this isn't the place to discuss that, you'll have to have a separate meeting'.

The 'organisers' also seemed to take a refreshingly relaxed view of dissent. When a colourfully-named 'ex-forces cartographer' called Feather tried to rally the rest into doing 'something really radical, like storming a runway', he wasn't manhandled out of the meeting, just made to look like a bit of an idiot.

Come tomorrow of course the protestors will be packing up their penny whistles and moving on. They will probably be satisfied to have brought the issue of climate change further into the public eye, and the presence of so many teachers and other middle-class professionals alongside the hardcore protestors shows that business increasingly has to pull its weight in the environmental stakes. As technology moves on, and options like video conferencing become ever more prevalent, we may soon witness an age of cutting down on the air miles and logging on instead.



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